Meet the Therapist: Menaka Thiru
What attracted you to becoming a therapist?
What I would describe as my personal life journey or evolution has drawn me to becoming a counsellor/therapist. The positive outcomes of the work I have done in my own therapy have given me a great faith in the transformative potential of effective counselling. One reason why I enjoy my work as a counsellor is that I can contribute to clients’ capacity to thrive emotionally and psychologically, and help them to alleviate their personal suffering or challenges.
I am keen to positively impact society in any modest way I can and I believe that counselling can improve a client's quality of life by, for instance, encouraging personal growth. But the positive impact does not end there. Clients can go on to beneficially affect the various individuals in their respective spheres of influence. There is definitely a knock-on and wide-reaching effect of counselling.
Where did you train?
I trained for three years at the adult education sector of Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. I initially completed a Certificate in Counselling Skills out of curiosity and a wish to improve my self-awareness and communication skills. Some years later I decided to return to do a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Studies. Initially I chose to do the diploma as a means of personal development, but once I was in the second year of this course and doing a placement at a local secondary school, I realised that several things about counselling were attractive to me.
Since completing my training I have been in practice as a counsellor for eight years and in private practice for three. I have found this work to be very rewarding, so much so that I have decided I would like to extend and deepen both my theoretical and practical knowledge of counselling/therapy. So, in January 2021, I will commence a part-time MA/ PG Dip Advanced Clinical Practice Counselling & Psychotherapy at The Minster Centre, London. This course will ultimately lead to my being a UKCP registered psychotherapist – a career objective of mine.
I am very excited about this future study as I believe it will further develop my skills and knowledge and enable me to provide an enhanced service to future clients.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
How does your style of therapy help?
I offer you support to help you develop the tools you need to find direction and create meaning. I also work in unison with you to help you find relief from emotional distress and build self-awareness.
The counselling process is a rich opportunity to make positive changes and enjoy more personal freedom through promoting fresh insights about yourself and the people and external circumstances in your life. Furthermore, I would encourage you to explore and access your inner resources.
All these factors can contribute to improving your quality of life and wellbeing. Moreover, I pay a great deal of attention to the actual therapeutic relationship between myself as a counsellor and you as my client, as I believe that this relationship can be used to generate positive and healing experiences within counselling that can positively influence your life outside our sessions.
In terms of my person-centred (a humanistic model of counselling) perspective, I am particularly interested in your unique psyche, story and journey and always strive to be curious and explorative as opposed to judgmental in my approach. I endeavour to provide an empathetic, genuine and accepting presence, thus providing a validating space.
A tangible benefit of psychodynamic counselling is that it can increase understanding of the impact of your past on your present. For example, you may become aware that you exhibit repetitive relational dynamics, for instance, being repeatedly attracted to a controlling partner or encountering conflict and experiencing hostility when engaging with a person who is in a position of authority related to you (e.g. a boss). Such dynamics are seen in psychodynamic counselling to stem from your early childhood relationships and experiences with significant people in your life, such as parents.
By recognising the influence of the past on the present, you can learn how to make meaningful changes in your present and future.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see individual adults, including older adults, who present with a broad spectrum of presenting issues or concerns. I particularly enjoy working with people on their relationships both with themselves and others. Indeed, I am eager to help people make changes or cope with challenges in all manner of social relationships, be they with family members, colleagues, peers, friends or intimate partners.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I find that working as a counsellor satisfies my desire to work where there is scope to work with deep feelings and emotions as well as stimulating intellectual ideas. I love this combination as it suits my personality which embraces both emotions and concepts! I really feel in my element!
Counselling and psychotherapy are constantly growing fields and I relish the challenge of keeping abreast of developments in theory, clinical skills and research. This is reflected in the fact that I read widely on counselling and enthusiastically attend varied Continuing Professional Development events such as seminars and workshops. I love the fact that one is constantly embracing new material as a counsellor!
Working as a counsellor provides me with a welcome opportunity to build positive therapeutic relationships with a variety of clients, working with them either short or long-term as appropriate. I also believe that I too can learn and grow as an individual as a result of encountering my clients’ perspectives and experiences. I feel very thankful for this.
What do you find more challenging?
Sometimes what clients have to face in terms of personal adversity and existential pain can be challenging to witness. Regular supervision and my personal therapy help me manage this challenge and give of my best.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what do you think of us?
I joined welldoing.org in July 2020. I was initially impressed by the time and advice that Louise Chunn (the founder) and Alice McGurran (content editor and head of customer satisfaction) gave me at the outset with regards to creating my profile. Since then I have found interaction with either of these team members to be consistently very supportive and friendly and conducive to building my counselling practice!
The wealth of articles and resources on the site available to both clients and therapists is also very appealing.
What do you do for your own mental health?
Counselling can be an emotionally demanding profession and I am very conscious that self-care is imperative. I pay attention to the quality of my mental health by cultivating a balance between my personal life and work life. Playing tennis and walking regularly contribute to both my physical and mental wellbeing. Regular and ongoing supervision and personal therapy also foster my mental wellbeing.
In addition, I work on maintaining strong connections with the significant people in my life as I strongly believe that healthy affective bonds lend to good mental health.
I find that actively practicing an attitude of gratitude towards the positives I encounter on a daily basis contributes to my optimum mental health, as does a compassionate attitude towards myself.
You are a therapist in Cambridge. What can you tell us about seeing clients in this area?
Cambridge can be very cosmopolitan and multi-cultural which means I encounter a real range of clients with varied lifestyles, jobs, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. The fascinating variety really appeals to me.
What’s your consultation room like?
Actually, I am now working primarily online, by Zoom. This means I currently work from home in a quiet and private room. Initially I was apprehensive about transferring my work online in the wake of the pandemic. However, I have been heartened by the fact that in the last months I feel I have done valuable work with clients who I have never actually met in the flesh! By focusing on being as present as I can, despite the lack of face-to-face contact, I believe that a great deal can be achieved.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Therapy can lead to increased quality of life and wellbeing. It is not limited in its application to crisis management or problematic times. In calmer, less troubled phases of our lives it can be equally valuable, fostering increased self-awareness, insight and personal growth. By providing an accepting space where one can be listened to and also importantly hear oneself, it offers an opportunity to explore and discover what one really feels and thinks. Through therapy a client can better access his authentic/true self and what this self is seeking.
In addition, counselling can help an individual to focus on building her/his sense of self-worth and his/her comfort in his/her own skin.
Finally, I really wish people knew that how you actually feel and how you engage with your world and the people in it can tangibly differ, in many instances dramatically between the start and end of a period of counselling!
How has your own therapy impacted on your work as a counsellor?
Having had the opportunity to deal with challenging aspects of my own life in my own therapy has really opened me to exploring the difficult features of my clients’ lives with them. Working through my own concerns and the obstacles that stood in my way has heightened my capacity to work compassionately and effectively with the complex emotions and issues clients bring to counselling. My personal therapy has given me an increased empathy and sensitivity to the psychological distress and suffering of others and a faith in human potential and the dynamic nature of life.